The “Last Cigarette” of 2016

[Original article published here:]

If the waning days of 2016 have reminded us of anything, it’s that life is temporary. Despite her strong connection to the Force, Carrie Fisher wasn’t spared, and her mother’s glorious feeling of “Singing in the Rain” didn’t last forever. While smoking packs a day will likely bring you closer to Carrie and Debbie’s ultimate fate, there might be something symbolic to bidding adieu to 2016 with one last cigarette. As you inhale, feel the pleasure and sorrow mix together as represented by one year…and one lit stick.

The music world was particularly bipolar in 2016. We lost greats like Prince, David Bowie and George Michael, while long-timers such as Neil Young and stars like Norah Jones put out new albums. We were introduced to exciting young artists like NAO and Tom Misch (who I was fortunate to get to know and chronicle).

This brings us to Kennedi. Her “Last Cigarette” enters you like that same inhalation, smooth and sultry yet somewhat unsafe. Its lyrics describe the familiar story of the girl who no longer loves the guy, yet they both hang onto the memory of that first kiss. Asked of the personal relevance, she says “there’s always a piece of whoever writes a song in their music.” The female protagonist of the song clearly has the upper hand, which Kennedi describes as “that constant pattern of using someone for pleasure and just for yourself, and they start having feelings but you don’t.”

That’s pretty deep stuff from an 18 year-old.  Originally from Spicer, Minnesota, Kennedi moved to Southern California to attend Cal State Long Beach, but has postponed her schooling to pursue her dream of a music career (don’t worry, she’s kept her credits for future use). Her brother, Alec, is her manager and producer.

Kennedi’s musical inspiration was drawn from Lana del Rey.

In fact, she credited the imagery in “Last Cigarette” to Lana’s Paradise album. “I wanted to write something that was very metaphorical. ‘Dust on the lips of the glass.’ That’s symbolic of addiction to alcohol or drugs. I wanted to give it double meaning.” Rather than drawing from personal experience, Kennedi claims “it was more about spending extra time working on the lyrics and the poetry of it.”

One line in the song that originally caught my attention was the unexpected “non potrei mai amati” which means “I could never love,” in Italian. In the context of the song one would add “like you want me to love you,” which is just another ding against the poor male protagonist.  Asked why she inserted it into the song, she said simply “because I wanted to make people wonder.” After further probing, she conceded that “I love different languages. I love Spanish speak and speak some but I want to become fluent. I think it’s beautiful and I’d like to incorporate other languages [into my songs], but only if necessary.”

As for genre, she calls her “You & I” electronic pop. Upcoming on the remainder of her EP is “Unseat,” which she says is “very intimate and stripped down in contrast. It will be probably classified as ‘singer/songwriter.'”

My kids had the pleasure of asking the next series of questions. Nina, who hates anything to do with cigarettes besides Kennedi’s song, which she really enjoys, went first. She found out that, while Kennedi doesn’t have plans to form a traditional band, she would like to incorporate friends Nate Shalmo and Tim King into her future music.

Julian (who, speaking of cigarettes, calls Norah Jones’ “Burn” “a really cool song…kind of old fashioned,”) continued the line of questioning with big sister Gretchen following suit. They learned that Kennedi likes performing live just as much as she’s fond of being alone and writing the music. She also described her big plans for 2017 and beyond, including the release of the EP and possibly some live shows.

“Last Cigarette” had just eclipsed 700,000 listens on Spotify at the time of this writing, and while I didn’t capture the count when I first reached out to her a mere week prior to speaking, I’m sure it was significantly less than that. In other words, those big plans could take her big places. Judging by the poise she displayed at a mere 18 years of age, the vibe of her music, and the inspiration she draws from one particularly successful artist, this household isn’t predicting much sadness by the time summertime 2017 rolls around.

A common theme on social media today is “good riddance 2016,” but let’s not forget some of the good things it brought us.  Whatever your opinion, you’ve been presented one option of what to be listening to, and what to be doing as the year draws to a close on Saturday. Now, please excuse me while I remind my kids that smoking can kill you.